Happy New Year!
What is new to report in the life and work of our team? Rev. Joseph Mulongo graduated from United Theological Seminary in Ohio! He returned home to North Katanga just in time to tackle the herculean task of simultaneously serving on the the international committee responsible for all the logistics of General Conference (GC)—the quadrennial gathering of United Methodist leaders from around the globe—while overseeing the North Katanga and Tanganyika Conferences’ delegations to GC. This included helping over fifty people apply and interview for visa appointments (forms, flights, hotels, transport, correspondence) and this year will require him to shepherd these delegations in pre-conference briefings, traveling to North Carolina in April, meeting with American partners, and making the voyages back to their congregations.
Once we get on the other side of GC, Joseph will be able to focus on discerning and envisioning where FPM is heading next. That isn’t to say that FPM wasn’t active in 2023. We continue to be faithful friends to our vast network of current and emerging community leaders with our words (we love the technological miracle of WhatsApp) and actions. Our scholarship program provided funds to women studying the El Dorado Nursing school and youth the Kamina Children’s Home as well as supplemental assistance to clergy nominated for scholarships to Africa University and other theological institutions. We also sent grants for solar panels and disaster reconstruction/relief. This is in addition to the many grants and relief funds our team members helped obtain through our partners that were sent via the UMC’s general agencies or directly to the conference treasurer’s office. One of these initiatives that Rev. Joseph is leading is to bring RACHEL servers (offline digital libraries) to our communities, starting with the Mulongo Nursing School.
In other news, the Rev. Dr. Taylor Denyer (FPM Board President) was recruited by the Methodist Theological School in Ohio to teach a six-month online intensive Methodist Studies course last year for a cohort of clergy from other denominations transferring into the West Ohio Conference. You can be sure she used this opportunity to speak about the importance of Methodist missiology, connectionalism, and the North Katanga–West Ohio partnership! She is already scheduled to teach additional Methodist Studies courses for MTSO and has been asked to develop a new class on Decolonizing Missions for next school year.
What will 2024 bring? For leaders in The United Methodist Church, this is an especially big question. Many of our partners have been holding their breaths in more ways than one since 2020 (when this April’s GC was originally scheduled to be held), as we foresee major institutional restructuring will occur, impacting budgets and jobs. Hence there has been a lot of talk about “when we get on the other side.”
We look forward to discovering what comes next together.
The FPM Family
P.S. If you are interested in reading prophetic essays about decolonizing American Methodism, check out this new book: Methodism and American Empire. Taylor contributed a chapter on how the ongoing battles for control over the UMC in the USA have done deep harm to the UMC in Africa by funding proxy wars across the continent.